Isle of Barra Circular
with thanks to Iain Gow who contributed this article
Distance - 22 miles; Est Time - 4.5 hours
Most of the Barra road network is single track with passing places which requires more care and attention than normal. Further information on single track roads is available in the Highway Code.
Arriving off the early morning Calmac ferry from Eriskay, follow the road for 1 mile until you reach the first junction. While on Barra, turn right to the airport to watch the spectacular scene of the only airport in the world where scheduled flights land on a beach. You may also see locals on the sand digging for cockles but thankfully, not inside the runway markers. Check flight arrival times (and ferry departure time) beforehand as you may have some time to wait, depending on the tide.
Return to the junction, take the right fork then turn left at the A888 heading for Castlebay (via east). At Bolnabodach is a deserted village seen from the roadside; a remnant of the notorious Highland clearances of the 1800's then further devastated by Typhoid.
Continue along the undulating road to Breibhig where it becomes a steady climb to just over 100m above sea level giving wonderful views on a clear day to Castlebay, Kisimul Castle and beyond to Vatersay. Having taken its toll on your energy, you are rewarded with a free-wheel section down to Castlebay hoping that your brakes are efficient and will hold out to the bottom.
Time permitting, take the small power boat out to the castle which was the stronghold of the MacNeils of Barra, but now under the care of Historic Scotland. Although worth half an hour of your time, if you have visited Duart Castle on Mull, you might be disappointed here. Returning to Castlebay, it's time for a Scooby snack where you have several choices. The Deck is recommended for sandwiches and the view of the castle but hold onto your food if there is a wind blowing as the Sparrows will be forever grateful, boldly landing on your table for any morsels you lose.
Continuing with the route, your easy descent into Castlebay is now an arduous climb although only reaching a height of 35mtrs above sea level but the flat top can't come soon enough. Once you reach Tangasdale, you could walk to Dun Ban and Halaman Bay, but this is a cycling route and Dun Ban is listed on walking sites such as walkhighlands.co.uk
The road on the west coast is more level and you are also rewarded with some lovely sandy beaches.
Continue following the coast line to Allathasdale where the road heads inland up the valley to the reservoir before descending to sea level again. Just after the house with the bright red roof, turn left back to the Ardmhor terminal to watch for Otters while waiting for your ferry.
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